I’m new!

I’m new!

I’m new! I have GM questions! (I haven’t been able to check online very in-depth, so very open to “here, read this link, all is answered within” but also appreciate any personal feedback members here might have.) 

I’m GMing our 3rd ever session of DW tomorrow night, and I am concerned about ‘what’s next.’ Out of basically-laziness I started our first-session-in-Peril with too much pre-set: Jason Morningstar’s excellent Slave Pit of Drazhu. I thought we’d want a pre-fab dungeon to make our way through; however I may have short circuited all the  backstories that came up during character creation by railroading into this “anyway, now you’re trapped in a dungeon.” Not enough blanks in the way I presented it. It’s gone very well, but they’re about to escape and I have no idea how to link where we are with the other backstory elements (which include an exiled elf-clan, a murderous minotaur and other great hooks), and how to turn those hooks into campaign. I dread heading to the nearby steading and spending a session wandering around town, making up NPCs and being boring, and don’t want to force-feed my further ideas about the evil Black Clerics of Ctharg down the party’s throat. 

Any ideas on this transition and/or presentation of the semi-thought out Fronts that keep the adventure level high but allow merging into the backstories? I greatly appreciate any feedback. 

16 thoughts on “I’m new!”

  1. You could still take the time when they get out to ask A TON of questions to set up the world. 

    The most problems with not knowing where to go stem from not really knowing enough about the world. So change that and everyone will know where they want to go next. 

  2. It’s never too late to ask the PCs questions.  They’re heading for the surface, right?  And then (presumably) back to (some sort of) town?  You’ve got the chance to ask all sorts of questions, some loaded and others open-ended. 

    Stuff like:

    – Ranger/Thief, what’s the nearest settlement to here? What’s it known for? 

    – Thief/Fighter/Barbarian, what sort of trouble did you get into when you were last at said town?

    – Paladin/Fighter/Cleric, who’s in charge in that town? How do you know them?  Why is their power so tenuous?

    – Any PC, what do you plan do with ?

    – Other PC, why is that such a bad idea?

    – Wizard/Druid, what places of mystery or power are rumored/known to be nearby?

    Also, remember that you’re playing to have fun yourself! If you’ve got some cool ideas about the Black Clerics of Ctharg, work them into the story.  I’d recommend asking the PCs some loaded questions about them, though.  Like:

    – Cleric/Paladin, what foul rites are the Black Clerics of Ctharg rumored to commit?

    – Wizard/Bard, what strange magic do the Black Clerics have access to? 

    – Thief/Bard/Fighter, why doesn’t anyone one in do something about the Black Clerics?

    – Cleric/Paladin, what is your deity’s relationship to Ctharg? 

    – Bard/Cleric/Wizard, when the Cthargian Heresy was exposed, which public figure was revealed as a one of the leaders?

    Customize questions like this to your PCs and the established backstories, and stay loose.  There’s nothing wrong with a couple hours of worldbuilding as long as you’re all having fun.

  3. Oh, another thought: ask questions about flora and fauna and write down all the crap they come up with, no matter how ridiculous. Then keep prodding with questions.

    As a result of this approach, our world is populated with details like:

    – Everyone knows that forest yeti hibernate in the summer

    – Dire bats remember

    – The River Arinin is home to venemous screech eels, dangerous predators but also a delicacy; teenagers hunt them to prove their valor

    – The red tree vole is one of the most dangerous predators of the Southern Forests; the “red” isn’t their color, it’s from their bloody reputation. They have a dental bladder, filled with the teeth and tusks of creatures they’ve killed and eaten. They spit these teeth with frightening force and accuracy.

    – The Tooth Fairy is scariest motherfucker in the Southern Forests, because it hunts red tree voles.

  4. You could also ask questions about something that happened in the past – like a Flashback- and apply the answers to the current or going forward situation.

  5. Also remember to create vague references, and toss them out left and right. Make up mysterious names like the Brotherhood of the Depths, and how they ran across this name last time they were in town. Seed these into the current adventure, too, as it wraps up by doing things like having them find odd artifacts or having dying foes gasp things out. 

    When the players ask “Does my character know more about the Brotherhood?” , tell them to roll to Spout Lore, and the rest takes care of itself. When they cleverly invent links between things that they created earlier, nod in a knowing way, smile broadly, point to them and say, “Yeaaaaaah” enthusiastically. 

    Then do as Jeremy says above and write notes like your life depended on it. 

  6. This is all very very helpful, thank you everyone. I’m having a hard time in general remembering how much I can offload onto the players instead of having pre-set (holdover from some very shaky D&D 4th ed. with little prep and zero player-input). I guess I have one further anxiety which is if we get out of the dungeon, talk about the world a bit and it becomes very clear that the party has to investigate the Black Chapel in Feldspar because of the relic Shank the Thief found in the Pit and by the way it sounds like there might be a connection to the fallen elves…, and  they head out immediately… then I’m going to be stuck without a dungeon, monsters, or any NPCs on hand. How do people cover this? I’m decent at making up reasons things happen and soft and hard GM moves on the fly, but will definitely end up with 6 townspeople named Derrr, or an eerily abandoned town (phew no NPCs), or a black chapel with no cool dungeon features… Is everyone else able to just come up with everything on the spot? Or should it be on the players again?  Thanks once again for everyone’s comments

  7. It’s a skill for sure! And lean on the other players as much as you need. Having then invent little details invests them in the story.

    Have a list of NPC names, use the instant NPC list in the back of the book and I’ve found Mike Shea ‘s cheat sheets invaluable!

    Dyson Logos maps are the bomb If you are stuck for one.

  8. I’m blanking on what it’s called (someone help!) but there’s a methodology for dungeons-on-the-fly that involves:

    – Asking the players to brainstorm the details of the dungeon in advance: history, rough floor plans, phat lootz, even the monsters that live there.

    – Framing this as intel that the PCs have discovered by doing research, recalled from legends/rumor/studies, or know from having been there before.

    – For every 5 (?) minutes that the players spend coming up with these details, you (the GM) are allowed 1 twist.  Each twist is a pretty major change to what the PCs have come up with it. It can’t invalidate what they’ve established, but it can make that information dangerously out of date. 

    Like, maybe the players establish that the old Kravenghast Crypts are where a once-powerful clan burried their dead over a couple centuries. The crypts are guarded by arcane wards and mechanical traps, and there’s supposedly a curse on anyone not of Kravenghast blood who disturbs them.  The crypts are also believed to be where the Star of Algol is hidden. The Star is an amulet that grants the wearer power over space and time. The Black Clerics of Chtonic are planning an expedition to retrieve the Star.

    All of the above is true, but it took them 10 minutes to come up with.  You get to introduce 2 twists. First, you decide that the Crypts have been invaded by ghouls (who seem unaffected by the curse, or at least they don’t care about it).  Second, you decide that the Star of Algol is a conduit of an elder god and that using it means exposing yourself and the world to the elder god’s influence.

  9. Results: I went into the session with more confidence, planning to get into lots of Q&A, thanks again for the above advice. As it turns out, something interesting happened: 1) the PCs decided not to leave the dungeon, but explore some unexplored areas for more loot so explicit worldbuilding wasn’t an issue and 2) we added a new player, a complete RPG virgin who out of a mixture of trying to be difficult, not having any preconceived ideas of limits and not caring about consequences, made some really interesting decisions which made the session super interesting. Aaand, nice side effect, set some hooks for future adventures by getting important promises out of NPCs. All in all a very good sample of the flexibility and accessibility of DW.

  10. How was the newb “trying to be difficult?” 

    Generally I find that newbs do a better job with a game like DW than folks with lots of RPG experience. For the other reasons you mention, like not having preconcieved notions of what they are allowed to control, or worrying about what might happen to their character. 

  11. Well, she was a somewhat reluctant player (at least at first) and was not really wanting to throw out any backstory for her character. So, that just made her character mysterious which was fine too. Once we got started she was thinking way outside the box; I took it as trying to ‘break’ the rules or trying to take actions with undefined results. But like I said, it worked out great, using spells in interesting ways, and ended up with her having a fairly major creative input into the game world.

  12. Lots of people who are new to such rules have this sort of reaction where they test the limits of what’s acceptable in such a game. Looks like you did the right thing, and just rolled with it, turning the contributions into interesting material with which to move forward. Good stuff. 

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